El Paso wins, nears PCL series victory

Three pitchers combine on three-hit shutout in Tacoma

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Triple-A El Paso can win the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Conference championship on Saturday night with a win over the Tacoma Rainiers in Tacoma.

The Chihuahuas took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series on Friday night, as right-hander Bryan Rodriguez and left-handed relievers Kyle McGrath and Jose Torres combined on a three-hit shutout in a 7-0 win at Tacoma.

Rodriguez allowed two hits and four walks with four strikeouts in five innings to get the win. He retired the last hitter he faced in the fifth with the bases loaded.

McGrath allowed a hit with two strikeouts over two innings, while Torres struck out four in two perfect innings. McGrath and Torres were both recently promoted to El Paso.

Third baseman Nick Noonan, catcher Austin Hedges, shortstop Jose Rondon, designated hitter Carlos Asuaje and center fielder Manuel Margot led the El Paso offense.

Noonan and Hedges had three hits apiece, with Noonan and Rondon homering. Rondon and Asuaje each drove in two runs, and Rondon, Noonan and Margot each scored two runs.

Hedges, who is hitting .286 in the series, was 3-for-4 with a double and drove in El Paso's first run in the first. Rondon (.214) was 2-for-4 and his two-run homer capped a three-run second that gave El Paso a quick 4-0 lead. Noonan (.417) was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and an RBI and a run scored. Asuaje (.286) was 2-for-5 and drove in El Paso's last two runs. Margot (.500) was 1-for-4 with a double, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored.

Left fielder Nick Torres (.125) also had a double in four at-bats and scored a run. The Chihuahuas had a total of 13 hits.

Right-hander Dinelson Lamet will start for El Paso on Saturday night. Lamet earned a late-season promotion to El Paso, and was 0-2 during the regular season with a 4.22 earned run average in two starts.

El Paso starters Walker Lockett and Rodriguez allowed one run over 11 1/3 innings over the last two games in back-to-back El Paso wins.

For the second straight game, a former Padres prospect will start for Tacoma. Joe Wieland is paired against Lamet. On Friday night, the Chihuahuas got four runs (three earned) against former Padre Wade LeBlanc on six hits in five innings.

If Tacoma wins on Saturday night, the decisive fifth game will be played on Sunday in Tacoma.